Aims To determine whether there is evidence to support the implementation of extended interventions (i.e. longer than 6 months) for individuals with alcohol or other drug use disorders.
Methods Literature on extended behavioral and pharmacotherapy interventions was reviewed, along with findings from studies of extended monitoring and monitoring paired with adjunctive counseling. Studies were identified through database searches, citations in prior reviews and examinations of recent volumes of relevant journals. Key terms were defined, and a theoretical rationale was presented for extended treatment. Several adaptive treatment studies that made use of stepped care or continuation protocols were also described.
Measurements The primary outcomes that were considered were alcohol and drug use during the intervention and post-intervention follow-ups. Other outcomes were examined when they were included in the articles reviewed.
Findings Most of the studies in the review provided support for the effectiveness of extended interventions for alcohol and drug abusers, whether the extended care was delivered through face-to-face contact or via the telephone. These findings held across all types of interventions that were examined (e.g. behavioral treatment, pharmacotherapy and monitoring). However, only a few studies directly compared extended and standard length version of the same intervention. New developments in addiction treatment with implications for extended care models were also described and discussed.
Conclusions The findings of the review indicate that maintaining therapeutic contact for extended periods of time with individuals with alcohol and other drug disorders appears to promote better long-term outcomes than ‘treatment as usual’, although more studies are needed that compare extended and standard versions of interventions. Achieving good compliance and successful disease management with extended interventions will probably require adaptive protocols in which the intensity of treatment can be adjusted up or down in response to changes in symptoms and functioning over time. Future directions in research on extended interventions were discussed.